Covid-19 in France

Castex promises to get tough on Covid breaches as France fights third wave

French prime minister Jean Castex, speaking at the National Assembly (parliament) 1 April, 2021
French prime minister Jean Castex, speaking at the National Assembly (parliament) 1 April, 2021 THOMAS COEX AFP

As France prepares for a month-long battle against the third wave of coronavirus infections, Prime Minister Jean Castex has told parliament that those people not adhering to lockdown rules will be "systematically" prosecuted. The new measures were approved by members of parliament, in a vote which was boycotted by the opposition. 

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The prime minister was presenting the details of measures to be enacted in the wake of the announcement of wider restrictions by President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday evening.

Drinking in parks and gardens will be strictly forbidden. The police have been told to fine anyone not wearing a mask in public. Any group of more than six people will be rapidly dispersed by the authorities.

There will be an additional allowance for poorer families, to compensate for the closure of school cantines over the next three weeks. Parents who wish to transport school-age children to stay with their grand parents will be allowed to do so.

Otherwise, no one will be allowed to travel more than 10 km from his home, nor leave their home region, after the Easter weekend.

National rail company, the SNCF, has registered a huge increase in the number of reservations for this coming weekend, selling 130,000 tickets on Wednesday. Places remain available on many trains. Over 40,000 travellers have abandoned train bookings made before the president's speech.

Drastic effort to flatten the curve

The nationwide measures are intended to slow the Covid-19 infection rate, with a view to seeing the rate start to diminish within the next 7 to 10 days.

The French Health Minister, Olivier Véran, also hopes to see the pressure on the nation's intensive care units, currently at or close to peak capacity in some of the worst-affected regions, begin to ease by the end of April.

Castex criticises the opposition critics

The prime minister's statement was followed by a parliamentary vote, which was boycotted by members of the left and the right.

The plan to impose new restrictions was approved by 348 deputies, from the ruling party and its alliances with nine voting against.

Several opposition groups had earlier announced their intention to boycott the vote, describing it as "belittling parliament," since the measures have already been put in place by the executive.

The leader of the communist MPs, André Chassaigne, compared the debate to a "pulling a rattle out of a toybox" to "pretend it's a democracy".

Prime Minister Castex was harshly critical of those opposition figures who, he said, "were trying to make political profit from a national drama".

"If you had had to face the problems we have had to face," he told the French parliament, "you would have made the same decisions."

Saluting the common sense of the ordinary French citizen, Castex insisted that voters would not be fooled by the empty "sloganising" of the opposition.

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